You may remember Allison Goss from her days as a painter and conservator at the Philbrook, but before that, she worked in restaurants most of her life. Even before that, as a child, she sat wide-eyed and thrilled on those lucky days when her great-grandmother cooked fried chicken, green beans and sweet potato casserole. Now, working as general manager of Red Light Chicken, she’s reminded of those childhood meals every day.
“Our menu speaks volumes to anyone with a traditional Southern upbringing,” she says.
But how can a big restaurant produce dishes that resonate with childhood memories? Credit chef Ben Alexander with the magic of the menu. It was two years in the making, trial and error repeated countless times in the McNellie’s test kitchen just west of Peoria.
The fried chicken is the star of the show. It’s brined for 24 hours (“the ingredients are Ben’s secret,” says Goss), after which it’s breaded by hand and then pressure fried. The brine and the pressure frying makes the chicken unbelievably juicy and tender. You can get it bone-in (a whole chicken is the best deal), as boneless tenders or in a sandwich. You can get it regular or spicy, and that spicy is Habanero spicy – be warned. The side dishes are a delight. The ambiance is bright and colorful.
“It’s a bit trendy and funky,” says Goss. “But it’s still welcoming.”
Goss is still starry-eyed about it all.
“When I come here, it doesn’t feel like work,” she says. “It’s like my home away from home.”